You may have surmised, from reading Part One in this series, that I failed to mention any practical friendship building tools. Over the years, my belief has been reinforced, that understanding and establishing a “covenant culture” is what grows and sustains a healthy marital friendship. In other words, the tools are a valuable resource but not the bedrock of the marriage.
In addition, there is an intrinsic quality in the heart of a believer, albeit many times undeveloped, an instinctive knowing, of how to initiate and respond in relationships. The schematic to fruits of the Spirit growing in a marriage is often not understood until you see it manifesting before you, and with a thankful heart you realize that God has granted a harvest in response to your heartfelt desire and prayers for personal transformation.
To say another way, saturation in His Presence, His Word, with a little fasting mixed in, and, voila`, I find myself intuitively being the husband I need to be. Your personal pursuit of holiness will release a natural flow of loving behavior. Still, because of their value, I have included a tools link: Twelve Steps to a Deeper Friendship With Your Spouse
Step Six is: Use conflict to sharpen and purify friendship.
Unresolved conflict is a lingering repellent to deep friendship, while a reconciled heart is an inlet for the peace of God to rule. As I mentioned in the previous post, the first place to make peace is within.
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)
Living in peace with everyone includes my being at peace with myself.
Thus for example, if a person struggles with loving themselves, prone towards self-disdain, plagued with self condemnation, priority one must be to reconcile this inner breach. My primary mandate is to enforce the peace in ME, lest I transfer, whether by intention or ignorance, the instability of my conflict on to YOU.
I am much better qualified and equipped to navigate marriage conflict, once I have established the discipline of doing the same within myself.
A marriage lacking friendship depth, that has settled for shallow, gives the enemy the leverage he needs to cause a marriage to get worn down over time. Separation and divorce appear to be the reasonable options when there is a vacuum, an emptiness, stemming from a lengthy season of disconnect, the void often created by unmet expectations.
We would be wise to make a preemptive strike against marital conflict, as contained in this potent trio: speak, sing and submit.
“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19,21) These are three vital elements for healthy community, in every context of friendship, and most critically needed in the close quarters of a covenant partnership.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Foster a heart of worship in your soul.
Maintain a mutual respect, walking in humility toward one another.
The modern definition of close quarters is “a situation of being very or uncomfortably close to someone or something.” We certainly can apply this to living together as man and wife, but the ancient meaning of this term is a curious one.
Scottish poet William Falconer defines the meaning in his nautical dictionary of 1769: “Close-quarters are certain strong barriers of wood stretching across a merchant-ship in several places. They are used as a place of retreat when a ship is boarded by her adversary, and are … fitted with … loop holes, through which to fire.”
Ah, this lends another perspective, does it not? When our adversary attacks, it’s time for husband and wife to man their battle stations. Here is where being prepared pays off and we are able to not only ward off attacks but to take the high ground and drive the enemy out.
In speaking, singing, and submitting, we enforce the peace, establishing a perimeter of defense in our relationship, so when the enemy seeks to board our marriage vessel, we will be united against him.